I've become less and less enamored of Player-Controlled Sports games recently (NBA Live, ESPN games, et al) because the lack of good AI is driving me insane.
A lot of Sports games today are designed increasingly for Multi-Player goodness. Which is great, absolutely, no doubt. If I had XBox Live I would be playing online all the time. My problem is is that, while leaps and bounds have been being made in the Multiplayer arena, players who play a lot of Single-Player games are SOL in terms of goodness, and a lot of it boils down to AI.
I'll use one of my favorites, Winning Eleven 8 as an example. The game, when played versus, is spectacular. But the Single-Player is lacking in the AI feature. So, knowing the average knowledgeable player can dribble circles around their markers and outsmart them, Konami coded a Catchup logic into the game. So a good player can still beat Jamaica 4-0 with Brazil, but on the hardest difficulty level, it's not as much because you're freaking Brazil anymore.
I can certainly understand that coding some 22 players on the field at the same time (if we're talking about either football), all with their own minds, is incalculably difficult. But i'm still waiting for the game to actually put good AI to use in a sports game. Too often, rather than challenge you with a thinking opponent that reads, reacts and tries to strategize to beat you, you are faced with an opponent who simply challenges or beats you because it just does.
I keep on wondering if they will ever release a game with a mode that just has you vs. the AI, with everyone on the field playing to their ratings exactly. I'm tired of watching Tiki Barber get run down by Dan Wilkinson, seeing Charlie Ward go for 40-20-10, or Mike Knuble beating Martin Brodeur five times. When I win, I want it to feel like I earned it and played better, not that I just defeated a team who has been artifically made better than they are.
Obviously, this kind of thing is on EA's "To-Do" list sometime in 2027. Maybe. But the lack of competition in the Sports market right now means that I get less games with a thinking opponent and more games with the New England Patriots dressed up like the Cleveland Browns. And this dissapoints me.
Of course, I remember being excruciatingly frustrated back between 1996-1999 because none of the games gave me the slightest challenge on the hardest level, so who knows?